Saturday, April 19, 2008

Three Reviews

I've fallen hopelessly behind on the reviews I want to write for Gravetapping, so I decided to play a little game. I sat down with three novels I've read and enjoyed in the past few months and imposed a 150-word limit on each review. It probably took me longer than it would have to write my usual 350 to 500 word reviews, but I had a little fun doing it. And the amazing thing, I actually came in under the limit on each.

Zero Cool is the second Michael Crichton--err, John Lange--novel Hard Case Crime has reprinted and it lived up to my lofty expectations. Peter Ross is an American radiologist who goes to Spain to speak at a medical conference and, more importantly, spend some quality time at the beach. Unfortunately his plans are irreversibly altered when he is approached by a nervous little man who warns him away from an autopsy--"If you do the autopsy, we will kill you." This ominous opening builds the foundation for a nearly perfectly executed wrong-man novel.

Zero Cool really is cool. The dialogue is sharp, the characters are uniquely over-the-top, the plot is quick and tricky in that great early-Seventies way, and the story is enormously entertaining. If you buy only one HCC this year, make it Zero Cool.

Triple Identity is Haggai Carmon's first novel. It is a financial thriller with doses of international intrigue, action, and trade-craft--as in barebones spy stuff. Dan Gordon is a Department of Justice lawyer who tracks large sums of laundered money that has crossed the border. When the novel opens he is on the trail of ninety-million dollars that went missing from a failed California bank and it doesn't take long for Gordon to realize there is more to the theft than bank fraud. And when the CIA and Mossad enter the chase he has no doubt there is something sinister in the background.

Triple Identity is an entertaining and interesting novel--some of the international finance is fascinating--that starts quickly, but falters slightly in the middle with too much backstory and not quite enough action. Fortunately it ends with a flourish and, overall, it's pretty fun.

Winter of the Wolves is, by my reckoning, the last novel published by James N. Frey; it hit print in 1992. And it is an entertaining and exciting little spy thriller. Tom Croft is a burned out operative for the super-secret organization The Exchange. He walked away from the game a few years earlier and now he's trying to forget his past in upstate-New York. Unfortunately his former partner has gone rogue and The Exchange wants Croft to hunt him down and kill him.

Winter of the Wolves is an extremely enjoyable novel. I guessed the ending in the third chapter, but it really didn't bother me. The writing is smooth, the protagonist is a tough-guy cutout that Frey gives just enough life to make interesting, the dialogue is crisp, and if you don't mind a journey you've probably experienced before it's really a pretty terrific read.

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